PM Imran Khan laments world's neglect of environmental issues
Prime Minister Imran Khan addressing the World Environment Day event that Pakistan is hosting in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme in Islamabad, on June 5, 2021. — YouTube/Hum News Live
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Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday lamented the world had not given due attention to the environmental issues it faces, calling for collective efforts to tackle them.

The premier’s comments came during the World Environment Day event that Pakistan hosted in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme.

Pakistan is among the countries worst affected by climate change, having been regularly hit by devastating floods in recent years, displacing hundreds of thousands of people and destroying swathes of agricultural land.

“Unfortunately, the world hasn’t paid much attention to conserving the environment,” the premier said during his address, noting the countries that had paid due attention to the matter were in a better state as compared to others.

Melting glaciers to cause further devastation

The premier warned that glaciers were melting due to global warming and if the world did not pay attention now, there could be further devastation across the globe.

The prime minister said governments across the world could not implement their policies of environmental protection and preservation unless fully backed by their masses.

He then called on Pakistanis, especially, the young and students to participate in the government’s initiatives to remedy this — like the Ten Billion Tree Tsunami project and Clean and Green Pakistan.

The premier noted Pakistan had been placed on the list of countries that were facing a worrying future due to the adverse effects of global warming.

Worsening water crisis

The premier said a water crisis is likely to hit Pakistan in the coming days, and lamented how the provinces were already blaming each other for water theft.

Read more: Balochistan government accuses Sindh of stealing water again

“Eighty percent of Pakistan’s water comes through glaciers, and glaciers are being severely affected due to global warming …. India and several other countries will also be impacted by this,” he said.

Strenuous and sustained efforts needed

The prime minister underlined the need for making strenuous and sustained efforts to preserve the planet for the future of the coming generations.

He regretted that in Pakistan too, in the past, no attention was paid to counter issues like environmental pollution, depletion of natural resources, and deforestation.

The premier, further lamenting about Pakistan’s environmental issues, said the country’s jungles were gradually ruined, as influential people occupied lands illegally.

“There were jungles spread across several acres of land in Changa Manga, Chichawatni, Kundian […] with time, the tress from these jungles were cut down,” the premier said.

PM Imran Khan said the PTI-led government had successfully planted one billion trees in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa over the last five years.

Half of country’s income spent on repaying loans

“Half of the country’s income is spent on repaying loans,” the premier said, as he regretted Pakistan could not spend the required amount to tackle environmental problems.

The prime minister said special guards would be posted for the construction of national parks, adding tourism would witness a boost after they are completed.

“Locals will realise the importance of national parks once it boosts tourism,” he said.

PM urges world community to join hands

The premier, a day earlier, had urged the world community to come together and join hands to protect the ecosystem, increase tree cover and save the global environment for coming generations.

“It is time for the world to come together and save the environment for our future generations,” the premier had said while addressing the virtual launch Gala of UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.

The prime minister had said everyone needed to protect the ecosystem, environment and stop the rapid depletion of tree-cover as well as the degradation of the environment.

Sharing the country’s efforts towards improving the environment, PM Imran Khan pointed out that Pakistan, as part of the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration, had so far completed the plantation of one billion trees and its target was to plant 10 billion trees.

He had said the government had also started another ambitious programme of adding nine national parks to the existing 30, developed over the last 70 years, in the country.

The prime minister said the objective of the program was to increase tree cover, protect wildlife, diminishing due to lack of habitat, and enhance mangroves.

Green jobs

He said the government was also working on the restoration of wetlands by using floodwaters and replenishing the water table.

The prime minister said the whole process also helped in creating green jobs and the government created 80,000 employment opportunities for women and youth since the outbreak of COVID-19.

‘Has developed world done enough? The answer is no’

During the same day, in an interview with Reuters, PM Imran Khan had said the world’s richest countries have not done enough to combat global warming, adding Pakistan had done more than any other in the world to combat rising emissions relative to its economic means.

“Has the developed world done enough? The answer is no,” PM Imran Khan had said. “Emissions are from the rich countries. And I think they know they haven’t done enough.”

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) had said in a report released on Friday that over the last five years Pakistan had experienced an environmental turnaround after years of decline in its natural capital, but added more needed to be done.

He had said developing countries like Pakistan had done “more than enough” to combat global warming and climate change despite having limited budgets and an array of problems to deal with such as in education and health.

“To take so much money out as we did – proportionate to our GDP and available income – I think Pakistan has done more than any country in the world,” he had said.

Aside from ecological restoration projects, Pakistan has also recently become active on the global green finance market, looking to access finance for environmentally friendly projects and decrease its reliance on fossil fuels.

Pakistan said the World Bank estimated the country’s new plantation projects would be worth $500 million, and that the valuation could go up to $2.5 billion if carbon pricing estimates went up.

PM Imran Khan had said global green financing and the valuation of natural assets provided good incentives to the developing world to protect the environment.

“If you can prove to the people that by protecting your environment you can actually gain something as well, that means you have more buy-in from the people,” he had said. “Remember: hungry people do not really care for the environment.”

— Additional input from APP and Reuters

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